Amongst the devastation and uncertainties which 2020 has conjured, it was almost forgotten that at the conclusion of the Supercars championship season, an iconic marque would pull the curtain on the Australian touring car scene.
Parent company General Motors announced back at the start of the season, that it would be retiring the iconic Holden brand in Australia at the end of 2020. Which in turn also means the end of the manufacturer’s direct involvement in the Supercars championship is over.
While the current Commodore chassis will race on next year among the current Holden teams, the Lion itself will roar one last time this weekend and where better than at the spiritual home of Australian touring car racing and of Holden.
The mystical Mount Panorama has been the scene of many Holden triumphs, pre-dating the inception of the Bathurst 1000 as we know it. What a fitting tribute it would be to the legendary marque to tame the Mountain as a manufacturer one last time.
Holden have won the Great Race a total of 33 times, well ahead of their perennially bitter rival in Ford. Iconic squads such as the Holden Dealer Team, Perkins Engineering, Triple Eight and the mighty Holden Racing Team all have their rightful places in Australian touring car history.
(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
Alas it is the individuals behind the wheel, who have steered the Commodore in its many iterations, into Bathurst folklore. Names like Jim Richards and his son Steven, Larry Perkins, Greg Murphy, Mark Skaife, Craig Lowndes and the King of the Mountain himself – for whom the winner’s trophy is proudly named after, in nine-time Bathurst champion Peter Brock.
The triumphs for Holden in the more recent years though, perhaps resonate more personally and none are more vivid than witnessing 2015’s Great Race be taken by Lowndes and Richards for Triple Eight. A roar across the 6.2km colossus of a circuit to signal the Lion’s win, was enough to make every fibre of hair stand up.
There is also the literal David vs Goliath narrative of 2017, where David Reynolds and Luke Youlden took the reborn minnows in the Erebus team into stardom. This epitomised the image of Holden as the blue-collared, hard working underdogs and will forever be a favourite win for any keen viewer.
Murph’s ‘Lap of the Gods’ in 2003 too was poetry in motion; weaving together the fastest ever lap of Mount Panorama at the time and claiming pole position by over a second. That yielded the first of two back-to-back wins for the Kiwi and a young Rick Kelly – behind the wheel of the iconic K-Mart Commodore.
2016’s race holds the record for the smallest ever winning margin at the Bathurst 1000, with a whisker separating privateer Holden team Tekno from the giants at Triple Eight. Will Davison crossed the line 0.143-seconds ahead of Shane van Gisbergen.
So much history of success and failure, and yet Bathurst is a place which can continue to create more. Though with the driver’s championship out of reach for Red Bull Holden Racing Team, victory at the Mountain would be fitting for Holden’s last hurrah.
17 Commodores will feature on the grid come this edition of the Bathurst 1000, with any of those contenders a shot at delivering the most valued prize on the Supercars calendar, next to the championship itself. Each of course with their own narratives that they wish to have written.
Jamie Whincup drives the #1 Red Bull Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore ZB during qualifying the Bathurst 1000, which is part of the Supercars Championship at Mount Panorama on October 5, 2018 in Bathurst, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
Red Bull, as the current factory team have the most writing on a win and given their stellar driver combinations between Jamie Whincup, Lowndes, van Gisbergen and Garth Tander – these two cars will be hot favourites among the Holden camp.
Former Ford stalwarts in Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert, who defected to Holden outfits in Team 18 and Walkinshaw Andretti United respectively – too stand in strong positions for victory. Both of those drivers of course having won in the past for the Blue Oval.
Even Supercars mainstay in Brad Jones, never won the Great Race as a driver, is still seeking success at Bathurst as a team owner. Though spearheaded by 2011 race winner in Nick Percat, the Albury based Holden squad may have its best opportunity yet.
Regardless of who it is or what team is represented, if the Lion can roar one last time in victory before it sleeps – the long tale of Holden’s exploits at Bathurst will get a fitting final chapter. Remains to be seen though, is if this is what The Mountain has written for the Commodore.
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